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WSJ: Jeff Bezos, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen Led 2020’s Biggest Real-Estate Deals

A look at the biggest residential transactions to close around the country this year, including two over $100 million

Many U.S. billionaires got richer during the pandemic, thanks in part to the recovery of global stock markets. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that, while individual markets were impacted to dramatically different degrees, the ultra-high end of the real-estate market didn’t crash in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

While the New York City market took a gut punch as wealthy Manhattanites fled the city, markets such as the Hamptons, Greenwich, Conn., Palm Beach and Los Angeles boomed. Local realtors attributed that uptick in part to the increasing fortunes of the wealthiest Americans, a desire by the rich to get out of densely populated environments and a rise in the number of people who wanted to upsize to larger homes with space for work-from-home friendly amenities like offices and gyms.

In the third quarter, sales of Manhattan luxury homes—defined as the top 10% of transactions—were down by 46.7% compared to the same period in 2019, according to a report by Douglas Elliman. Just 3.6% of transactions followed a bidding war, the lowest level in more than 11 years, the report shows. By contrast, sales of luxury homes in Palm Beach and high-end single family homes in Los Angeles were up by 87.5% and 33.5%, respectively, Elliman’s numbers show. In Greenwich, luxury sales were up 68.2%, marking the end to a more-than-decade-long slump in the affluent Connecticut city.

“It’s the strongest luxury market in the history of Palm Beach, record prices in every single category” said Danny Hertzberg, a luxury agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in South Florida. “We can barely catch our breath. It’s nonstop. Basically everything that was on the market has been sold so we’re calling people to ask whether they would consider selling.”

Of the top 11 deals closed in 2020 nationwide, two topped $100 million, down from a record six in 2019, according to data from appraiser Jonathan Miller and research by The Wall Street Journal. Six were recorded in California, in the Los Angeles area or in the celebrity-studded Montecito enclave in Santa Barbara County. Two were recorded in Palm Beach, and two in the Hamptons. The one remaining deal, recorded in New York City, was the result of a closing at the new Billionaires’ Row mega-tower 220 Central Park South. The deal was not actually signed this year–the nature of the new development market provides that the time from contract to closing can often take years –and does not reflect the current performance of the local market.

Read on for a closer look at the year’s biggest deals.

 Jeffrey Katzenberg Estate in Beverly Hills, Calif. | $125 million

In August, entertainment executive Jeffrey Katzenberg sold his Beverly Hills home for $125 million in an off-market deal to Jan Koum, one of the founders of the messaging service WhatsApp, according to people familiar with the deal.

At the time, a spokesman for Mr. Katzenberg said the sale was a move to downsize and that the buyer had submitted an offer that Mr. Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn Katzenberg couldn’t refuse. They had bought the site of the property for $35 million in 2009, records show. Mr. Koum could not be reached for comment.

Property records show the home spans about 26,000 square feet, and sits on almost 7 acres. Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency brokered both sides of the transaction.

Trousdale Estates Duo in Los Angeles, Calif. | $75.5 million

A limited-liability company tied to the family of Taiwanese billionaire Terry Gou, founder of iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group, paid $75.5 million for two neighboring homes in pricey Trousdale Estates area of Los Angeles in January, according to people familiar with the deal. The buyer could combine the properties into one of the largest private compounds in the Hollywood Hills, according to a real estate veteran familiar with the neighborhood.

The first property has six-bedrooms and is 17,000 square feet. It was asking $42.5 million and had finishes by design firm Armani/Casa, according to Zillow. It was developed by a partnership led by developer Farzin Aghaipour, records show.

The second property is a spec home built by Canadian businessman and Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, The Wall Street Journal reported. The 16,000-square-foot home has an L-shaped infinity pool, a golf simulator and a roof deck.

Neither Mr. Gou nor the developers could be reached for comment.

Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency represented the family of Mr. Gou as well as the seller of the Armani/Casa house.

The Foothill Estate in Beverly Hills, Calif. | $68 million

Entertainment and sports executive Casey Wasserman, grandson of the late Hollywood mega-agent Lew Wasserman, sold his newly completed Beverly Hills home for $68 million in June, far less than its original $125 million asking price. The purchaser was David Geffen, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The roughly 18,548-square-foot mansion sits on more than 3 acres and includes a gym, a screening room and an art studio. Outside, there’s an entertainment deck with an 85-foot infinity pool, a pool house and a four-car garage as well as motor court parking for about 25 cars.

Mr. Wasserman completed the house in 2016. He assembled the site using land formerly owned by his grandparents, the late Edie and Lew Wasserman, and a property next door formerly owned by Frank Sinatra, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Westside Estate Agency co-founder Stephen Shapiro represented the seller and co-founder Kurt Rappaport represented Mr. Geffen. Neither Mr. Wasserman nor Mr. Geffen responded to requests for comment.

Click here to read the full article on wsj.com.




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